It’s Thursday, Febuary 23. The last practice before Wes-Del’s final regular season game against Elwood.
Warriors head coach John McGlothin blows his whistle after each minute and tells his team to switch shooters. The Warriors are partner shooting.
“We do it at least three times a week,” McGlothin said. “Lots of shots, working on our individual game…I felt like when I was a younger coach, my teams didn’t take enough time just getting shots up.”
For the winningest coach in Wes-Del history, this is what the winter weeknights have looked like for the last 30 years. But following the 2022-23 season, that routine will end with his retirement.
“I didn't think 30 years,” McGlothin said. “I think when you get into it, 1993-2023 seems so far away. But you would never think ‘My gosh, I'm gonna still be coaching,' but also when you're at that time, I was 22 [or] 23 years old. You also realize that 53 seems a lot older than it does right now too.”
Where the passion began
His love for the game came when he was a kid. His father, Floyd, coached him in every sport he played, except basketball.
“That's not a bad thing,” John said. “I just think it was always kind of funny that I gravitated to the one that he didn't know anything about. But I kind of took a liking to it and then starting in sixth grade, I started going to basketball camp at Grace College.”
McGlothin went to Blackford High School (Blackford County) and played on the basketball team. After graduating in 1988, he went on to play for Indiana Wesleyan University. Following the end of his college career, he started to miss the sport.
“How can I stay involved in this [basketball]?” John said. “And I got an opportunity right away at Wapahani with Chris Benedict in 1993 and I loved it. Once I got into it I was like, ‘Man, this kind of scratches that itch to still be part of it.’”
The coaching journey
John found his first official coaching job at Wapahani High School where he coached the middle school team and was an assistant coach for the high school varsity team before an opportunity opened up at Haines City High School in Haines City, Florida. He went there mainly to teach, but the job also came with an assistant coach role.
“They played for the state championship the year before, " John said. “And it was a loaded area for basketball and I just felt like I fell into something. I had been working on a lot of camps and a lot of college camps in the summer to make extra money at Butler, Ball State and a lot of different camps. So I knew when I saw these guys, I was like, ‘Oh man, these are some college-level players.’”
After Haines City, he went on to be an assistant at Auburndale High School. But after a few seasons in Florida, he was looking to return to Indiana – mainly because of his family, but there was something else.
“The one thing I loved was that [the Haines City players] were so athletic and had such great talent when I was there,” he said. “But we had times where we would have five or six Division I players on the floor and 150 people were in there to watch us. There's nothing like Indiana basketball. So once you've been in Indiana, it's just different.”
After returning to the Hoosier state, he made another assistant coaching stop at Bluffton High School. He was only there for one season (1998-99), but that time with then-Bluffton head coach Wayne Barker was a memorable one.
“We won the first sectional they've won in 48 years or something like that,” McGlothin said. “It was awesome and a great time. Wayne's one of the best people and still, we're really close and I learned a lot from him.”
But Barker believes it was McGlothin who made the biggest impact on the team.
“He helped me more than I helped him,” Barker said. “You know… quite honestly, it had been the worst team I've had yet and it was the first time we had won a sectional. And a big reason we won a sectional is just his ability to motivate kids. He was really good at talking to kids and getting them to want to play hard for him.”
Following that, he spent five seasons as an assistant coach for the varsity team at Yorktown High School. But next, he found a lead role. After a long tenure as an assistant, he was hired as the new head coach at his alma mater: Blackford High School.
The new role came with new jobs for the first-year head coach.
“You don't realize all the paperwork,” McGlothin said. “You become not just a coach, now you're checking people's grades, you're looking at whatever issues the kids are having. So now you’re a psychiatrist and psychologist. You're working on counseling with kids, you're spending time with them, buying and ordering everything and getting all the stuff.”
After five seasons at Blackford, he moved on to teach and become an assistant for Jay County. But he started to realize the toll it was taking.
“I had an hour drive there with a 2 1/2-hour practice,” he said. “My daughters, there were a lot of things that I missed out on looking back. They were raised in the gym. I've told all these guys, I want your kids in the gym. I don't care if they're noisy or what.”
When it comes to his family, McGlothin understood what they had given up. Due to that, he decided to take a teaching job that had opened up at Wes-Del. Basketball was not even in the picture. After McGlothin arrived, the Warriors’ then-head coach, Joel Roush, left the position.
The family's decision
When McGlothin was offered the Wes-Del job, he didn’t make the decision.
“I sat them [my family] down and asked, ‘Do you want me to do this again?' and they said yes,” he said. “So I've always had their support. They're my biggest supporters. They're also harsh critics. They're not afraid to tell me exactly what they think about this or whether you did this right or wrong. But at the end of the day, they'll always give me a hug.”
McGlothin’s wife, Brandi, is no stranger to his job. The marriage of 22 years began with a basketball game.
“He was an assistant at Yorktown, and another assistant was dating my friend and coworker's daughter,” she said. “They decided to set us up. The plan was to come to one of John's games with my friend without him knowing I would be there ahead of time. I could check him out, and if interested, we would all go out together after the game. I gave the thumbs up, we went to Applebee's, and we've been together ever since.”
When the Wes-Del coaching opportunity was presented, she did not hesitate. She knew coaching was her husband’s dream job and believes he was lucky enough to accomplish it.
“It wasn't always easy, but I knew what I was getting into when I said yes to being a coach's wife,” she said. “I'll plan to remind him about the sacrifices, and he'll have to support a dream of mine - like moving to a beach somewhere.”
McGlothin believes he missed out on a lot with his daughters, Kamryn and Rachel, but Brandi thinks he has made up for those times.
“At times, it was quality of time over quantity,” she said. “Vacations have always been a time for us to make up for any lost time. Whatever he did, it worked. They are both most definitely "daddy's girls."
More than a basketball coach
When you talk to the people around McGlothin, one thing is consistent. He is loved by the people that play and coach under him. But it goes both ways.
“Kids are kids no matter where you're at," McGlothin said. “Whether it's coaching a Division I player, or if it's coaching a 12th man on your team. They all want some discipline. They all want you to put your arm around them and tell them that you care about them. And they all want to do their best for you.”
Current player, senior Cade Pretorius, has a favorite memory from McGlothin’s final season.
“My favorite memory is going on our senior trip,” Pretorius said. “It's a trip where he takes the seniors that he has to an event and ours was a Butler game. It was just really fun and we all enjoyed ourselves.”
McGlothin has had a senior trip every season he’s been the head coach. He likes to keep it within the sport. Besides a Butler game, he has taken past seniors to a Purdue and Pacers game.
“It gives us some time, as coaches, to just kind of put our hair down,” he said. “It's funny the stories we hear and the things that we learn and the fun stuff because we do it right at the end. We just did it like a week or so ago and so we do it towards the end of their time. I thought that would've been cool if my coach would have done something like that, and we try to have a good time.”
Like the senior trip, McGlothin does something else that is bigger than basketball and more important than winning games: Every season he’s been a head coach, his team has adopted a family for Christmas.
“We don't put it on social media and we don't publicize it,” McGlothin said. “It's not something that we do because we want people to know. It's important to me because I was one of those kids that at some point may have needed that. And so we always took a community family and bought presents for them… We’d bring the kids in and the kids would come in and we would play basketball and shoot and play knockout. We never said they were from the basketball team so the parents would sneak them out, put them in the car and the kids would get something on Christmas.”
He received a lot of support in his last season. During a home win against Eastbrook, more than 30 former players and coaches came to celebrate with him before the game. But one tribute came just a few days ago.
A letter was mailed to McGlothin. It was from a current player’s grandmother and she thanked the coach.
“Your guidance, patience and ability to understand an individual's potential and worth... have given him the desire to move forward into a career,” the letter said. “Hopefully, the strength you instilled will continue to grow."
The letter finished with the quote, “To make such a difference in a student's life has to be the best reward..."
When McGlothin read it, he was emotional. But it reminded him why he coached for 30 years.
“I have kept several letters, cards and emails over the years,” he said. “Coaching goes much deeper than the X’s and O’s that people see on the weekend. Each group of players is like getting a new group of sons that I hope I’ve helped make an impact on.”
Contact Zach Carter with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ZachCarter85.